One quarter into the season, and University of Memphis true freshman quarterback Taylor Reed was behind center.
In a 59-14 loss to No. 20 Mississippi State Thursday, U of M coach Larry Porter inserted Reed into the lineup after sophomore Andy Summerlin came out of the game due to an ankle injury he suffered in the first quarter.
"It was obvious that (the ankle) was bothering him, but we had to make the decision to pull him and put Taylor in the game,” Porter said.
Pitted against a blazing-fast SEC defense and an already out-of-hand score, the true freshman showed moxie. If the freshman from El Dorado, Ark. was wide-eyed, he didn’t look it.
He threw an interception in the third quarter — which was more his receiver’s err than his own — but then passed for a touchdown in the fourth.
Reed looked confident throwing curl routes toward both sidelines and finished 23-of-35 for 149 yards with a touchdown and an interception.
“First and foremost, I was proud of the way he played,” Porter said. “He came in and settled our offense some. We were able to sustain drives and move the ball down the field. We got into somewhat of a rhythm, but I would like to have seen us put more points on the board.
“ … [H]e was a bright spot.”
Reed lost out to Summerlin, who finished 3-of-5 for 25 yards Thursday, in fall camp.
Per Porter’s standard policy, freshmen are prevented from speaking to the media. Last season, then-freshman Ryan Williams, who started 10 of the Tigers’ 12 games, was never made available.
But as Porter entered the media room -- after a generally miserable season opener during which his defense allowed 645 yards -- Reed was by his side.
Allowed to address the media post-game, Reed said he benefited from observing Summerlin in his first few drives.
“Coming in, I got to see how fast the game was and just get a view from the sidelines,” Reed said. “I felt that we could move the ball, and we did at times, but we just had to finish drives.”
While Reed was hardly perfect with his throws, his receivers didn’t afford him much room for error.
Late in the third quarter, the left-handed Reed took a snap from the shotgun formation on the wrong side of his body. He craftily twisted around and fired a dart to junior receiver Marcus Rucker, who couldn’t make the catch.
Still, Reed soaked it in. His teammates made sure of it.
“They told me to just have fun and make plays and enjoy it, because it’s a special moment,” Reed said. “That’s really what I try to take out there.”
Despite Reed thoroughly outplaying Summerlin Thursday, Porter wasn’t ready to reopen the quarterback competition or name Reed as the starter against Arkansas State next Saturday.
“We’ll have to go back and grade out the play tonight, but right now to make any judgment would be unfair,” Porter said. “We need to go back and grade film first.”
There’s not much doubt about what the film will show. One of the scant bright spots for the Tigers, Reed was composed in the pocket Thursday while Summerlin struggled mightily, both with his cadence and passing.
Reed said although the future of the quarterback position remains in limbo, he’ll approach next week’s game against the Red Wolves as if nothing has changed from fall camp.
“We’ll make a lot of corrections, and just coming off this game — we only scored 14 points, so that’s a big difference,” Reed said. “We have to change that and put up more points and big-time plays. We’ll be ready next week, for sure.”